The Cross of Huatulco. Part 2

This is part 2 of a larger series on art, syncretism, and the need to understand everything. To read part 1, click here. 

This is a story of ownership, of denial and of blindness.

The Spaniards and the British came and saw a cross, a chance to wonder at a revelation. However, they chose to deny it. Thomas Cavendish, the British captain, sought to tear it from the ground as a mark of the devil. These Europeans came and saw no mark of their own, as if the cross was a symbol of Spain or England more than a symbol of Christ. In their arrogance, they denied the mystery and the revelation. They could not understand the gospel except if it had their mark upon it. The revelations were required to come from the, they said. They were the arbiters of God and his chosen people. To the Spanish there could be no way that God had been in Huatulco. This could not be from him.

Today, we deny revelations in the same ways. We do not recognize the familiar mark of our own kind and write it off. If it was not made by me, or someone like me; if this was not made in a way familiar to my own frame of reference, than it is denied and pushed away. We limit our chance at miracles, at wonders and at discovery. Is it possible that God (or nature or science or the universe) uses other means, other mediums, and other languages to be revealed? I have been spoken to through an abstract painting, what appears to be an absurdity, and been fully moved. Maybe the Cross of Huatulco or a child’s scribble are revelations of something we will miss, things that don’t make sense and don’t jive with our preconceived ideas.

The cross is the symbol of the crucifixion. All over the world people wear it as jewelry, churches have it mounted on walls and it has even mysteriously appeared in the rubble of the world trade center.

Was this a real revelation, a symbol that God sent to remind us of his presence, or did we see this random positioning of beams and girders and create an icon and symbol? The Cross of Huatulco may be similar. Was this cross found on the beach directly connected to Christ’s death upon it, or could it have been a mere coincidence of shape and form?

Looking through a book of Native-American art, I was shocked by the sight of swastikas adorning tee-pees, rugs, and various decorative items. But these were obviously used hundreds, if even thousands, of years before Adolf Hitler changed this image forever. To the native people, this symbol represented the four-ness of things, the four winds, the four seasons and their continual connection and leading into each other. There was no evil in this meaning. The word itself, swastika, comes from a Sanskrit word meaning well being and was appropriated by the Nazi’s at a much later time. How many symbols do we have that share this visual syncretism?

That cross on the beach could have been a symbol of an older Indian religion no relation to Christianity. Many other cultures share a legend of a white man bringing a revelation, the Karen in Burma share this common myth.

I have a hypothesis… Maybe it’s all made up. Maybe it never happened. Could it be possible that the Indians created the whole thing to have something to call their own? Perhaps they wanted to taunt the Spaniards and the British? Maybe, just maybe, they saw them coming with their gilded shields, cross and swords and they ran to a secluded beach and quickly constructed a cross and quicker story to say “we know about you, we’ve had this story without you for years.” They had the cross; they didn’t need the missionaries and their version to explain it. Their own story made perfect sense to their way of life, whatever myth it was.

But we ask, what does this all mean? Where does the cross come from?

Does it matter?

I don’t know if I want to know the true history of the Cross of Huatulco. The legend is great as it is, a legend or myth. The origin of the cross is not the point. Whether true or not, the story is about familiarity and recognition, not veracity.


Stay tuned for part 3.

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